Exploring Virtual Reality – what’s available/affordable for the VR-curious?

In Webinar 002 – Lucid Dreaming – Where Is It Today? @_Barry asked @aholecek, “Can you suggest some consumer level VR products and programs to get started with VR at home?"

I’d like to get the ball rolling with this thread, and post some initial information that might be helpful. If you know about this subject it would be great if you could add your own suggestions or information! If you have questions, please ask here and I’ll do my best to answer them. I’ve been very enthusiastic about VR for several years and have used a number of different systems.

The following 6-minute video is a good starting point on the state of play with VR in 2019: Why now is the best time to invest in VR

In Andrew’s answer he mentioned Google Cardboard; you can find out more about that here. If you go that route, be aware that this is the very lowest manifestation of virtual reality, though it will give you a bit of an idea of what VR is like, and it is also very affordable if you have a smartphone. (Just know that higher-end systems are going to provide an immensely richer experience.)

If you have never tried VR, I highly recommend seeing if there is anywhere you can get a demonstration: Microsoft stores usually have demos of their headsets; many urban centers have VR meetups (search on Meetup.com) – typically full of people happy to offer demos; many public libraries are starting to offer VR equipment for use by the public. I went to demos as often as I could until I could afford to get VR equipment of my own.

If you have a high-end Samsung smartphone, Gear VR is a great entry-level system. I was very happy with my Gear VR for two years while I saved up enough to get my current high-end PC-based VR system. Certain other high-end smartphones work with Google Daydream VR, another affordable entry-level option if you already have a compatible smartphone. (In addition to a compatible phone, Gear or Daydream costs about $100.)

If you already have a Playstation 4, PlayStation VR (PSVR) is another great option. It will cost a few hundred dollars. I haven’t tried PSVR, but I hear great things about it. It has a lot of interesting software (including the forthcoming Dreams by Media Molecule, which is going to be a PSVR exclusive.

Oculus Go is a standalone VR device that would make a fantastic starter system. It’s like an optimized Gear VR, but self-contained and costing $200.

Oculus Quest is a higher-end standalone VR system that is coming sometime in spring 2019 (i.e. soon!). It will cost $400 and will provide a significantly higher-level VR experience compared to the Go. (I can explain more about that if anyone is curious, which would involve explaining the terms “3DOF” and “6DOF” – for now just know that 6DOF is much more immersive/embodied than 3DOF.) Even though I have a desktop PC system which has a lot more power, I am seriously considering getting a Quest for various reasons.

Those are the main options I would consider affordable entry-level systems. Any questions? Would anyone else who Knows Things (@Allison? @alexk?) like to weigh in with information or recommendations?

~ArthurG

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Thanks Arthur, I’ve purchased the Playstation VR system and will be setting it up in a few days.

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You’re welcome, Barry. Also: Yay! Congrats on getting PSVR. I’d love to hear what you think of it.

~ArthurG

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Wow, I can definitely weigh in on this subject. Last April I attended an industry meeting called VRLA with demonstration and representatives from dozens of companies big and small. I was investigating opening a (non-violent, good karma) VR Experience center for entertainment, business and artistic uses. After a lot of research and site visits it just didn’t make sense economically at this time. Even Disney is having a hard time getting the ball rolling. Furthermore, I’ve been disappointed that in the intervening year there is no new awesome meditaion-type vr experience that take advantage of the advanced displays that are available.
So, I have a VivePro with a PC. It is fantastic. HD vr video is absolutely convincing–or at least as convincing as a LD! You definitely have to remember where you “really” are (or not). It’s easy to get swept away. Many games are great distractions and lots of fun too.
So, if you have a decent PC the regular Vive is perfectly adequate and is what you find at most arcades where you can try it out in malls all over the world. If you want the awesome experience then VIVE Pro with a more serious PC is required. There are higher definition headsets available but not a lot of experiences at this time take advantage of it (except porn, of course).
As to the “games” that are meditative, they are simply not for me–too mellow and too many elegant English accents. You can go to valve.com (the purveyor of almost all VR games) and try samples on your laptop.
That said, there are lots of experiences that are fantastical and captivating and dreamlike and occasionally funny.
I’d be totally happy to answer any specific questions.

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@ArthurG Cardboard is a great “Teaser” in my mind. You can get a sense of what’s possible here even if it’s just a glimpse. Cardboard is also good for marketing applications and lighter content. As you mentioned, truly remarkable experiences extend beyond Cardboard. I really enjoy the rich immersive experiences, so PSVR really does it for me. Albeit bulky and heavy, I love getting into it. Really looking forward to experiencing Dreams coming out soon. I don’t know much about Oculus. We need more developers who care about this kind of content. As a follow-up to this post, aside from systems it would be great to share your favorite content and games.

Hi @_Barry! Will be fun to trade stories together. Let me know what you get into PSVR in the next few days. I found Tetris Effect to have lots of dream-like qualities. It’s hard to focus on the game play because there’s much background stuff going on. After I finished the game, I spent quite a lot of time just browsing the background environments outside of the game itself (which I believe unlocks after you beat it). Swimming with dolphins, flying with birds, flying through space… It’s got a lot of dreamy moments post-game.

@Richard Yes, nice to meet you! Love hearing about your experience with the VivePro. How is the fit on that system? I find PSVR to be bulky and cumbersome which makes meditative experiences harder logistically. Neck strain happens pretty quickly. Your Valve link should take folks to Steam, no? Which experiences might you call out as worth checking out?

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@Allison, I’m so looking forward to hearing more about Dreams when you get to try it. Per your suggestion, some VR experiences I consider interesting are:

  • Dreamtime: A Deep Dream VR Experience. – a 5-minute 360 video that can be viewed in cardboard, Rift, Vive. “A meditation on imagination and the unknown, DREAMTIME is the first cinematic use of deep dream to achieve a VR experience, placing you within a dream that is half human and half machine.”

  • Blortasia Vive. Developed by Kevin Mack, you fly around a crazy psychedelic art space. Mack’s work is inspired by “transcendent visions, technology, nature, neuroscience, physics, and artificial life.” My understanding is that Blortasia is inspired by lucid flying dreams of his.

  • The Invisible Hours (PSVR, Rift, Vive) – a fascinating VR cinematic experience. It’s like a play that takes place over the course of about an hour; you freely follow different characters, going back and forth in time to gradually piece the story together.

  • Awake: Episode One VR (Vive, Rift, Windows MR) – a gorgeous cinematic VR experience. “you are a new presence in the story of Harry; a man obsessed with solving a mysterious lucid dream. It’s an obsession that has also cost Harry dearly and now he is stuck, waiting for release. You are the witness and it’s time for Harry to wake up!”

  • Dead Secret (PSVR, Oculus Go, Gear VR, Rift, Vive) – a 1st-person mystery story with fun dreamlike and mystical elements. I’m currently enjoying the sequel, Dead Secret Circle.

  • Virtual Virtual Reality (Oculus Rift/Go, Gear VR, Google Daydream, Vive) – a very trippy, humorous experience where you go back and forth through many different layers of (virtual) reality.

Those are a few of my favorites. I’d love to hear what other people would recommend!

~ArthurG

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Great question @_Barry! I agree with what @Allison, @ArthurG and @Richard have already said.

Starting with something like the Cardboard or GearVR is a good intro to VR, but of course they don’t showcase VR’s full potential.

PSVR is a great option because it has a lot of great content, especially games, and is relatively easy to set up.

I personally like using the Oculus Go because it’s standalone (no more cords!), comfortable to wear, and easy to prototype my projects in. I’ve watched some Youtube videos in it too and it’s decent. I’m looking forward to the Quest, which will have more degrees for freedom to look around and interact with the virtual environment :smiley:

Oculus CV1 and HTC Vive are what we use in my research lab since they’re just overall better quality and have more accurate tracking. I’ve also tried the Pimax, which has a much greater horizontal field of view, and that to me was really what I imagined VR to be like when I started six years ago. These are all quite expensive if you factor in the recommended computer specs, so I won’t recommend them to someone just starting out. Better to find someone who has it already and try theirs!

As for programs, I’d check out these more experiential ones:

  • The Blu (whale encounter and underwater experience)
  • Tilt Brush (get creative)
  • Where Thoughts Go (like Post Secret, but in VR)
  • Eagle Flight (simulation)
  • Google Earth VR (fly around the Earth)
  • Museum of Other Realities (space for virtual art)–coming soon!
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Hi @alexk, those are all great choices. In particular I enthusiastically agree with you about Google Earth VR and Where Thoughts Go.

There is a good episode of Kent Bye’s excellent Voices of VR podcast (VoVR) where he interviews Lucas Rizotto, the creator of Where Thoughts Go: #721: Introspective Hero’s Journey of Self-Reflection & Emotional Education with “Where Thoughts Go”

Where Thoughts Go is an experiment in collaborative storytelling that is built on the premises that the emotional nuances of our human experience are complicated and nuanced, that everyone has a story, that these stories deserve to be heard. Rizzotto has crafted a series of worlds that cultivate a deep sense of emotional authenticity and vulnerability. Each world is designed to based around a specific question, and you can listen to previous answers to these questions by selecting a floating sphere that plays you previous responses. You’re then invited to record your own answer to these questions, which is added into the overall experience. It’s an ever-evolving, living story that is designed to create an introspective hero’s journey of self-reflection, and it’s a perfect example of what I’ve been referring to as the “Yin Archetypal Journey.”

There is also a very interesting VoVR episode on Google Earth VR: #559: Researching Awe with Google Earth VR: Towards a Virtual Overview Effect.

One of the unique affordances of virtual reality is it’s power to convey the vastness of scale, which can invoke feelings of awe. Denise Quesnel is a graduate student at Simon Frasier University’s iSpace Lab, and she has been studying the process of invoking awe by using Google Earth VR. She was inspired by Frank White’s work on The Overview Effect , which documented the worldview transformations of many astronauts after they observed the vastness of the Earth from the perspective of space.

Quesnel wants to better understand of the overview effect phenomenon, and whether or not it’s possible to use immersive VR to induce it. Anecdotally, I think that it’s certainly possible as I reported my own experience of having a virtual overview effect in my interview with Google Earth VR engineers. She won the best 3DUI poster award at the IEEE VR conference for her study “Awestruck: Natural Interaction with Virtual Reality on Eliciting Awe.

I had a chance to catch up with Quesnel at the IEEE VR conference in March where she shared her research into awe, how it can be quantified by verbal expressions, chills, or goose bumps, and how she sees awe as a catalyst for the transformative potential of virtual reality.

As for Museum of Other Realities, I am very intrigued by this project and looking forward to trying it out when it is available to the public at large. Virtual art museums are a great use for the technology with amazing potential.

~ArthurG

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Also, if you’re in the SF Bay area consider visiting https://onedome.global/

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Wow, Richard, thanks for the recommendation. Onedome looks fantastic. I had not heard of this before, and now definitely want to check it out. I live close(ish) to the Bay Area, in Sacramento.

~ArthurG

I am beyond excited for the release of No Man’s Sky in VR.

No Man’s Sky is a massive generative world where you can visit nearly infinite planets completing quests, building structures, and interactive with alien races. The game has been out for a while without VR and has been amazingly interactive and dream-like on its own.

The VR release this summer is sure to be incredible! I am very much looking forward to getting in there.

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Enjoyed this.

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I agree, @Allison! No man’s Sky coming to VR is a big surprise. There are so many hardware and software announcements in VR lately! And this is a big one. Have you played the flatscreen version of NMS? I’m curious – not having played it yet – does it have RPGish qualities? It sounds like it might, if you get to interact with alien races.

I love the idea of exploring infinite worlds. I’ve spent many fascinating hours playing the open-world RPG Fallout 4 VR, and perhaps NMS might appeal to me in similar ways.

~ArthurG

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Just wait until this is available in VR: UNREAL ENGINE 4 - Photorealistic Graphic (2019)

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I’d like to play a sequel to Journey (2012) in VR. Can you imagine Portal 3 as a fully immersive VR game?

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@Ronin, I’ve never played Journey, but from what I hear it sounds great! I’d love to play a similar VR game. As for a hypothetical Portal 3 VR game, that would be fantastic! There is a VR demo by Valve set in the Portal universe which is quite good – and even includes an encounter with GLaDOS, who is quite intimidating “in person”! It’s called The Lab. There is also a VR portal mod called Portal Stories: VR, which has about 5 short levels. Between the two of them they give a good glimpse of what a Portal game would be like in VR – I certainly hope that happens at some point!

~ArthurG

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Hey all, if virtual reality and lucid dreams interest you, you may be interested in the thread: Lucid Dreaming & VR: How our waking life is becoming more dreamlike. It links to a great conversation I had with Kent Bye on the Voices of VR podcast.

Voices of VR is the podcast to listen to if you are interested in diving deep into the subject. Kent is integrally informed – see, for example VoVR #694: Ken Wilber on Transformational VR, Maps of Consciousness, & Integral Philosophy – and offers both a broad perspective on what’s happening with VR, as well as going deep into the various philosophical and existential implications of virtual reality. It was an honor to meet Kent in person and record a dialog with him.

~ArthurG

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@Ronin, Of possible interest: I read an interesting article about a game called The Under Presents coming for the soon-to-be-released Oculus Quest, which is described in the article as “the indie video game ‘Journey’ meets the immersive play ‘Sleep No More.’”

Immersive Theater and Virtual Reality Collide in First Oculus Quest Experience ‘The Under’

The Under Presents sounds quite fascinating and even…dreamlike.

~ArthurG

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As of today there is a high-quality, affordable, entry-level standalone VR headset – the Oculus Quest, which will cost $400. Here is a detailed review: Oculus Quest Review – The First Great Standalone VR Headset.

Currently available for pre-order; shipping on May 21st. I’m super-intrigued that “Guided Tai Chi” is listed as a launch title; this is something I’ve wanted in VR for a long time.

~ArthurG

Hi Arthur,
Did you order this Oculus? I’m curious how it performs! Lisa

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